Republican Vagim will talk to any group, even liberal ones, in Fresno water fight

Posted by John Ellis on March 28, 2014 

Doug Vagim

THE FRESNO BEE

Conservative Republican Doug Vagim is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to win local political support in his fight to put Fresno’s new water rates to a popular vote.

If that means making his pitch to Peace Fresno, so be it. Or the Kennedy Club of the San Joaquin Valley. Or the Sierra Club’s local chapter.

“I’m still a Republican, but more importantly I’m a citizen of Fresno,” Vagim said. “This has nothing to do with party. It crosses all platforms.”

The city’s water rates will increase to help fund a $410 million upgrade to its water system. Old pipes will be replaced, new recharge basins built, new wells sunk and a surface-water treatment plant constructed.

But Vagim’s efforts have irked some Republicans.

Recently, Vagim successfully lobbied the Fresno County Republican Central Committee to support a referendum. The message Vagim pitched was centered on Republican values.

When he speaks to Democratic or more liberal groups, that message is likely one of anti-sprawl and other hot-button issues for local progressives.

In one email to union and Democratic leaders, he wrote that the city is pushing “this huge expensive water treatment plant” for its “urban sprawl scheme.”

“This is another way of gouging the ratepayer to get more rapid growth,” Vagim said in an interview.

He’s also unapologetic about pitching his case far and wide.

“Wherever there’s a meeting I’m invited — I’ll go,” he said.

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